Belmont Annual Town Meeting: First Night, Segment A

Photo: Town bylaws.

7 p.m.: Hello, and welcome to the first night of the 2018 Belmont annual Town Meeting, which will be about non-budgetary articles. It’s nice to see a large crowd in the Belmont High School auditorium for what will be a fairly straightforward list of articles – nothing too controversial tonight – so we might be able to get out of Dodge by the end of both the Bruins and Celtics playoff games. 

So here is tonight’s agenda:

Article 1: Order of the articles 

Article 2: Authorization to represent the town’s legal interests

Article 3: Amend the general bylaws: Establish the Thaddeus Frost House Historic District

Article 4: Amend zoning bylaws: General Residence Zoning District, Sunset Clause

Article 5: Amend zoning bylaws: General Residence Zoning District 

Article 6: Citizen’s Petition: Single-use plastic check-out bags [Withdrawn]

Article 7: Amends general bylaws: Plastic Bags

Article 10: The fiscal 2019 Community Preservation Committee budget and projects

  • $103,000 to the Belmont Veterans Memorial.
  • $5,000 for architectural drawings for the music bandstand at Payson Park.
  • $25,000 for design documents and bid specifications for the Town Field playground.
  • $780,087 for the construction of Grove Street Park Intergenerational Walking Path.
  • $250,000 to fund eligible commitments by the Belmont Housing Trust that would increase housing units where new housing is being built, provide incentives to developers to develop affordable housing units, or fund pre-development work to determine if sites are suitable for community housing development.
  • $175,000 to stabilize the McLean Barn.

7:05 p.m.: We are right on Belmont time. Moderator Mike Widmer gets the meeting underway. Pastor Butler from the Open Door Church provides the invocation and the Boy Scouts presents the flag. The Chenery Middle School chorus sings the national anthem. The 30 (!) new town meeting members are sworn in. Nice number.

7:20 p.m.: Widmer said he hopes to get through the non-budgetary articles in three nights but that appears to be a hopeful wish. The under/over of three nights to complete the articles is one-in-five. 

The long-serving members are recognized including Marty Cohen with 43 years. Marty said four years ago he gave his retirement speech and he’s giving another one. I’ve enjoyed it very much not as a hobby and a duty but something you want to do well.” Standing O.

Mark Paolillo makes a wonderful speech at the reading of the proclamation for the late Bill Skelley. 

Craig Spinale, the Belmont Light interim GM, gives an update on the electrical distribution plan including the completion of the Blair Pond substation and the infrastructure – power lines – are (near) completed which will allow for the decommissioning of the three older sub-station. The substations will take up to five years for the one across from Town Hall and 6 to 10 for the other two. 

Bruins, Tampa Bay, 0-0 midway through the first period.

Patrice Garvin, our new town administrator, gets a big hand after being introduced by Selectmen chair Adam Dash.

7:40 p.m.: The first article that requires a vote is up and it’s the Thaddeus Frost House Historic District, introduced by Mike Chesson, Pct. 4. The Frost House is a circa 1805 Federalist farmhouse at 291 Brighton St., one of the last in Belmont. The owner wants to protect the exterior if it’s sold in the future. Selectmen unanimously voted favorably. It will be the fourth district in town. This article is well presented by the Historic District Commission with a combination of facts and history. Needs a two-thirds vote. The owner, Athena McInnis, gives her support to the measure. The first question from Warrant Committee chair Roy Epstein on the future use of Community Preservation Act funds to repair the house.

The vote is up and passes overwhelmingly, 237-15. Passes

7:58 p.m.: Steve Pinkerton of the Planning Board presents Article 4, which is the sunset clause of the General Residence Zoning District. This article will allow the restrictions on new construction on single and two family structures to limit the size and mass so they can be consistent with what’s in the neighborhood. Pinkerton said the bylaw has been very successful – developers have been working with the town – over the past three years so it should continue by striking the sunset clause. “Things are going quite well,” said Pinkerton.

Kevin Cunningham, Pct. 4, said he supports eliminating the sunset language because if it doesn’t, the entire bylaw will end which is not what anyone wants. No objection to the action.

The vote is up and it passes with only 16 “no”s with 238 in favor.

8:11 p.m.: Article 5 is up now. This article is known as the “porch and dormer” article which is more of a “housekeeping” issue. Since the zoning bylaw requires that any changes to a non-conforming structure go through a special permit process, small and non-complicated improvements have to go through the cumbersome site and design review in the Planning Board. This article will ship all smaller items – increases under 300 sq.-ft. – to the zoning board of appeals while the Planning Board will have more time to investigate larger additions and such.

Bruins/Lightning 1-1 after one; Celtics/Sixers underway.

Jack Weis, Pct. 2, asked if the ZBA knows they are getting all this new work and will the decisions have the same care and degree of involvement as with the Planning Board. “Yes,” said Edmund Starzec of the Planning Board. Bob McGaw, Pct 1, is acting as Town Meeting copy editor finding errors in the wording in the articles for the second time. Now Roy Epstein, chair of the Warrant Committee, is also finding his own errors. Ellen Cushman, Town Clerk, informs the third challenge to a word (by-law vs. bylaw) that it took her a few years to realize what was the correct.

It passes 242-9.

8:25 p.m., The plastic bag article. The reason article 6 was dismissed. This bylaw will end the use of plastic bags in Belmont, with Star Market, Nov. 1,  being the first to end its use with smaller retailers given a longer time frame, until Feb. 2019. Did you know 7.3 million bags are used by Belmont residents or about 300 per person? Don Mercier, Pct. 8, said that plastic bags cause less stress than cotton/paper bags. Mercier is making the case for the plastic industry. Not so sure he has much support although he has the data holding up his argument. He said the bylaw might seem like a good thing, but it could actually be detrimental to the environment. Bonnie Friedman, Pct. 3, said the town should support the use of compostable cups and paper by retailers. Anne-Marie Lambert, Pct. 8, asked if the town would have a campaign for behavioral change to go along with the ban. Sylvia Cruz, Pct. 5, asked what the impact on businesses in other towns. Campaigner Linda Levin-Scherz, Pct. 2, said they have heard from those businesses who said “Armageddon” didn’t come. Melissa MacIntyre, Pct. 8, said she’s buying eight reusable bags 

The vote is in and it passes 228-32.

9 p.m.: Moderator Mike Widmer wanted to stop for the night but the members immediately rattled the cage in disapproval. Widmer decided to throw the crowd article 8 and 9 to satisfy their appetite.

Celtics by 10 over the Sixers with a minute left in the second; Bruins down to the Lightning, 2-1, after two. 

9:13 p.m.: Marijuana tonight! Widmer goes with the two narrow pot-related articles: first up is the moratorium, Planning Chair Charles Clark is asking the town meeting to delay adult dope use facilities until Dec. 31, 2018 because there is a great deal of confusion – well, it IS marijuana – from the state and the law is very complex that has yet to be resolved. Clark said he did not feel that they had sufficient information to make zoning decision, protecting the town going forward. Mark Paolillo said more time is needed to discuss “time, place and manner” with town residents. Anne Mahon, pct. 4, believes a moratorium is just another delaying tactic. Two-thirds required. The first vote on pot is … 190 to 52.

9:26 p.m.: Article 9 is a three percent town tax on grass and product sales. Mercier said the town might be breaking federal law to accept the money. George Hall, town counsel, said he didn’t see the feds going after the state for taking in revenue. Emma Thurston, pct. 1, asked that the tax is not directed towards any specific expenditure. Hall said it goes into the general funds. Bob McLaughlin, as always, makes his point saying the moderator should ask only those in the hall who are against the tax to speak (figuring there was less of them) because the Red Sox, Bruins and Celtics were playing! The crowd cheers!

The vote is taken: 231- 7. 

 We are going home at 9:36 p.m. Weed Wednesday as the meeting will take up the opt-out article.

Belmont World Film’s ‘Disappearance’ Focus On Impossible Choices; Monday, April 30 [Trailer]

Photo:”Disappearance” Amir Reza Ranjbaran (left) and Sadaf Asgari.

A young couple’s relationship is tested through a long winter’s night of moral dilemmas and impossible choices in “Disappearance” (Napadid Shodan) Studio Cinema, 376 Trapelo Rd. The film is an Iranian/Qatari production in Persian with subtitles is presented as part of Belmont World Film’s 17 annual International Film Series.

The first feature from experienced shorts director Ali Asgari is a precisely crafted, modestly proportioned drama that draws out the wider political resonance from a tale of individual heartache.

Dr. Zahra Lotfi, a Middle Eastern Studies scholar who focuses on women’s issues, will be the night’s special speaker.

Town Meeting Begins Monday, April 30 With Non-Financial Articles

Photo: The annual town meeting in Belmont.

Belmont’s 2018 Town Meeting gets underway at 7 p.m. on Monday, April 30 at Belmont High School’s auditorium.

For many of the Town Meeting Members in Belmont, the start of the annual get-together – which begins Monday, April 30 – is like Christmas and the 4th of July all rolled up in a patriotic family reunion with hidden fireworks just waiting to be lit. Others are not as thrilled, viewing the gathering as a three, four, five-hour debating society where they sit on uncomfortable theater seats while missing the playoffs broadcasts.

But on whatever side they fall, the nearly three hundred members of Belmont’s representative legislative body will gather in one of the purists and direct examples of democracy in the state and country. (Not so freewheeling as the open Town Meeting in which any voter can attend and resembles, at times, a rugby scrum.)

As of recent custom, Belmont has separated the non-financial (in May) and budgetary items (June) by roughly a month to accommodate the state’s budget calendar.

Monday night’s first night will include these articles in the following order: articles 1 to 7 and 10

Article 1: Order of the articles

Article 2: Authorization to represent the town’s legal interests

Article 3: Amend the general bylaws: Establish the Thaddeus Frost House Historic District

Article 4: Amend zoning bylaws: General Residence Zoning District, Sunset Clause

Article 5: Amend zoning bylaws: General Residence Zoning District 

Article 6: Citizen’s Petition: Single-use plastic check-out bags [Withdrawn]

Article 7: Amends general bylaws: Plastic Bags

Article 10: The fiscal 2019 Community Preservation Committee budget and projects

  • $103,000 to the Belmont Veterans Memorial.
  • $5,000 for architectural drawings for the music bandstand at Payson Park.
  • $25,000 for design documents and bid specifications for the Town Field playground.
  • $780,087 for the construction of Grove Street Park Intergenerational Walking Path.
  • $250,000 to fund eligible commitments by the Belmont Housing Trust that would increase housing units where new housing is being built, provide incentives to developers to develop affordable housing units, or fund pre-development work to determine if sites are suitable for community housing development.
  • $175,000 to stabilize the McLean Barn.


Rugby: Boys’ Outplay Defending Champ BC High; Final Play Gives Girls’ Win Over L-S

Photo:Senior flyhalf Laurent Brabo running for Belmont’s first try against BC High.

In a battle of rugby royalty, Belmont High Boys’ is wearing the crown after a convincing 26-14 victory over defending Division 1 state champions Boston College High School on a soaked Harris Field, Wednesday, April 25.

After defeating last season’s number 1 and 2 teams (the Marauders thrashed St. John’s Prep, 38-23) in its first two matches of the season, Belmont can claim the top spot in Division 1 in Massachusetts.

While both teams had its hands full with the wet conditions, Belmont’s skill and tactics won out against the Eagles. As with their game against St. John’s Prep, it was Belmont’s dominance controlling the scrum where Belmont’s front seven was outweighed by both prep schools highlighting the Marauders’ control of the game.

Senior flyhalf Laurent Brabo eluded two BC High defenders to scamper 40 meters for Belmont initial try at the 11-minute mark and then easily converted the two-point conversion kick. (Brabo is fast becoming the program’s best ever kicker having scored a 45-meter penalty kick.)

It took the Marauders only five minutes to double the score to 14-0 when after soon after a great kick to touch to advance the ball near the BC High goal line, senior Sam Harris punched to through to score Belmont’s second try.

BC High halved the lead to 14-7 during its longest possession of the game, but Belmont would not be denied its third score when Will Lozano ran up the middle with five minutes remaining in the half to make the score 21-7. 

Both teams came close to score in the initial 10 minutes of the second half but dropped balls and great defensive stances by the Eagles and Marauders halted the threats, Belmont would finish its scoring in the 57th minute to raise the score to 26-7 before BC High used some brute force to register its second try two minutes into extra time.

Girls’ Use Last Play To Eek Out Victory At Lincoln-Sudbury

On the final play of a game, Belmont High’s junior fullback Gabriella Viale tapped the ball to herself and scored the match-winning try as Belmont’s Girls’ Rugby defeated hosts Lincoln-Sudbury Regional, 17-12, in a contest played in a constant downpour on Wednesday, April 25.

Despite finding itself down 12-10 in the final 20 minutes, “[The team] was impressive since no one lost their cool, they never panicked. They were always composed,” said Belmont head coach Kate McCabe of her team.

After defeating its first two opponents by a combined 138-0, Belmont soon discovered the Warriors – which the Marauders squeaked out a 10-5 home victory last year – were ready to take on the defending state champions.

“They were really tough and super aggressive at the start of the game,” said Viale, who said the game certainly affected by the heavy rain with many dropped balls. 

Belmont took the lead 5-0 through Viale before the Warriors tied the match at 5 going into the half. Junior Number Eight Grace Christensen gave Belmont the lead, 10-5, with a strong try early in the second half only to see Lincoln-Sudbury score and make the conversion kick to go ahead 12-10. 

“It took a little while to get used to what they were doing but in the final 20 minutes we were playing within their 20 [meter],” said McCabe.

While they were on the front foot, Belmont waited until the games final seconds to score. A penalty was called on the Warriors near its goal line allowing Belmont to restart play as Lincoln-Sudbury was running back to line up defensively. Rather than pass the ball back, Viale tapped the ball with her boot and sprinted for the try. With Calista Weissman’s conversation kick, the ref blew the final whistle.

Belmont’s rematch with Lincoln Sudbury is May 30 at Harris Field.

Belmont Youth Hockey Scores On Proposed New Rink Along Concord Avenue

Photo: An overview of the proposed new Belmont Youth Hockey rink along Concord Avenue.

They patiently sat on the bench for the past two-and-a-half years since it last was action, but on Tuesday, April 24, Belmont Youth Hockey jumped over the boards to reintroduce itself to the community and the Belmont School Committee with its vision of a new skating rink for Belmont.

The structure will be a sleek single-story rink/recreation center located on Concord Avenue across from the Underwood Pools, creating with a new high school and public library a new community hub for Belmont, according to Belmont Youth Hockey representative Robert Mulroy who, along with Ara Krafian, CEO of Cambridge-based SMMA |Architects who created preliminary drawings of a new rink, who presented the plans to the School Committee.

If all goes to plan, the new rink/center could be up and running by 2020 before major construction begins on the new Belmont High School.

To make the whole thing work, the youth hockey organization is proposing a public/private partnership with the school committee and town which will allow the non-profit to take school property in a 30-year lease at zero cost with the stipulation Belmont High sports teams will have a set number of hours reserved for games and practices. That partnership agreement will need to pass muster from the school committee and Town Meeting.

A new rink that will not need significant public funding will be a small but significant capital expense removed from the town’s significant “wish list” of large projects that Belmont faces paying for which includes as new Police Headquarters, Department of Public Works facility and public library.

While reluctant to say how much the new center will cost as construction expenses have markedly increased, Mulroy quoted a price tag of $6.5 million in 2015. The construction of the new rink – which will require the demolition of both the White Field House and the Viglirolo rink, known as “The Skip”, which was built in the 1970s.

School committee members did raise questions on the impact of traffic along Concord Avenue with a brand new facility and high school just a few hundred feet from other., But Mulroy believes the nearly 180 new parking spaces and traffic pattern changes associated with a new High School project will alleviate the current demand of on-street parking on main and side streets created by the existing rink and vehicle congestion created by those seeking parking. 

Belmont Superintendent John Phelan said youth hockey was asked by the district and school committee to wait to present its proposal until the “footprint” of the new High School was determined, so not to create any interference with the design and location of the 7th to 12th-grade building.

The need for a new rink is evident once anyone enters “The Skip” which is the current home of Belmont Youth Hockey and the Belmont High teams. Built more than 40 years ago, the once open rink has one wall of corrugated steel open to the elements. (Once, a visitor from Calgary, Canada who attended a nephew’s game at “The Skip” on one bitter January night, said he had been in warmer outdoor arenas in his hometown than indoors in Belmont). The mechanical infrastructure is on “death’s door,” said Mulroy. 

“It’s not how long until there is a catastrophic failure. It’s that it will happen,” said Mulroy, whose league currently purchases three-quarters of all rental time at the rink. “But we have the capacity for a lot more,” he said.

A new rink comes as the youth hockey program has seen increased growth in participation and teams – eight developmental programs and 22 competitive traveling teams for boys and girls from 4 to 18 – in the program which started 47 years ago.

The rink/rec center would be located on school property facing Concord Avenue on the parking outcrop between the White Field House and the Mobil service station across from the Underwood Pool. It will be a short walk from Harris Field and will allow for a softball field and soccer/lacrosse pitch to be located in the rear.

The key points of a new Concord Avenue facility include:

  • A 6,500 square foot multi-use athletic/recreation center.
  • A year-round NHL-size rink with above the ice seating and a “half” rink, both can be used for ice hockey, public skating, figure skating, sled hockey and curling.
  • A field house for half the year (where the half-rink is located) for indoor tennis, concerts and a practice facility for baseball, soccer, lacrosse, field hockey, and rock climbing.
  • A running/walking track above the field house.
  • 180 parking spaces that can be used by pool patrons and a drop-off area at the rink’s entrance.
  • Eight new locker rooms that can be utilized by teams playing on nearby Harris Field.
  • A team or community meeting room for public meetings or continued learning classes.
  • Exercise/health room for yoga and exercise.
  • Food concession stand.
  • A skate shop

The facility will be funded with a private 30-year loan which requires the school committee to lease the land at no cost to the non-profit, with an agreement that Belmont High’s Boys and Girls ice hockey teams will have a specific number of hours dedicated to practice and games. Phelan pointed out with a rink, the school department would need to allocate more than $100,000 a year on rental fees at other rinks and bus transportation.

Public-private arrangements are fairly common, said Mulroy, including for recreational facilities pointing to a pair of nearby examples: the Beede Pool and Gym in Concord and the Wellesley Sports Complex which will open later this year. 

The rink will be run by a professional management company. At the end of the 30 years, the town will have the opportunity to take possession of the facility or allow the existing management contract to continue under a new agreement. 

The Youth Hockey Association has been discussing an alternative location for the rink at the former incinerator on Concord Avenue at the Lexington/Belmont line. It would be an 80,000 sq.-ft. complex with two full ice surfaces and parking. While the association has been in discussions with officials and town counsel exploring the feasibility of the town-owned location, Mulroy said the clear first option for youth hockey is the high school site.

Mulroy said the next steps will be gathering feedback from the School committee and residents before seeking support from both the committee and Town Meeting to move forward. Once it gets the initial OK, Youth Hockey will release a Request for Proposal to build the facility and finalize the lease agreement. Afterward, the final designs will be done and the financing will be secured. The final step is to go back to the School Committee and Town Meeting for final approval of the lease deal. 

Marijuana High On Resident’s Questions At Town Meeting Preview

Photo: (Left) Warrant Committee Chair Roy Epstein and Town Counsel George Hall

April 20 – better known as 4/20 – is, in short, a holiday celebrating marijuana where people gather to consume cannabis and get high.

(Why 4/20 – pronounced four-twenty – ? Blame it on California.)

And in Belmont, 5/2 (May 2) will be marijuana day at the 2018 annual Town Meeting as next Wednesday weed will likely dominate the night’s debate as Town Meeting Members will be asked to decide whether to move forward on a citizens’ petition allowing Belmont to “opt-out” of allowing the retail sale of pot in the “Town of Homes.”  

And if the discussion at Monday’s annual Town Meeting warrant preview co-sponsored by the Belmont League of Women Voters and Warrant Committee is any indication, marijuana will take center stage when the Special Town Meeting is called on Wednesday.

In 2016, Bay State voters approved a ballot measure that legalized recreational cannabis and its sale by retail operators. While Belmont followed the state by endorsing the question by a 53-47 percent margin, a group of residents – many affiliated with the local Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints – has sought to remove Belmont from authorizing the sale of pot and cannabis-related “eatables.” Under the current state law, Belmont can approve a single state retail license under a formula that takes into account the number of retail liquor licenses in town.

The pro-opt out group contends a vote to legalize pot statewide does not mean the voters wish to have a marijuana store in the community. Others, including two current members of the Board of Selectmen, believe the majority of Belmont voters in November 2016 represent the “will of the people” on all aspects of the new law, according to Selectman Mark Paolillo.

From what the questioners asked to Warrant Committee Chair Roy Epstein who hosted the meeting and from Town Counsel George Hall, it appears members and residents wanted some clarity on what Wednesday’s vote by Town Meeting will begin or end in terms on Belmont’s pot future.

Hall explained that if the article to approve an opt-out provision passes on a majority vote – 50 percent of voters plus one extra vote – a general election will need to be called sometime in the summer by the Board of Selectmen (the only group allowed to request an election) to ask for town-wide approval.

“It needs to be approved twice. Both need to happen,” said Hall.

But Hall pointed out that approval of the opt-out clause at Town Meeting is a “recommendation” to the Selectmen to ask for a town-wide vote; it does not compel the Board to call for one. And Adam Dash, the selectmen’s chair, reiterated the board’s majority opinion that it would look unfavorably at such an election. 

Undeterred by the board’s reluctance to the article, Pam Eagar, who presented the opt-0ut citizens’ petition to the town clerk, showed her group’s potential strategy on bypassing the selectmen when he quired Hall on a possible public referendum on the measure. 

Under Belmont bylaws, a referendum – a direct vote in which all voters are invited to vote on a particular proposal to adopt a new bylaw – is allowed, although Hall said it would be a bit “strange” for proponents of the measure to overturn an article accepted by Town Meeting using the referendum process. 

But all the political wrangling on opting in or out will be mute if the article doesn’t pass muster on May 2. And if history is any measure, the supporters of the measure could find themselves fighting an uphill battle due to the time-honored practice of placing amendments to an article. 

Amendments are just that, addition or substitution to an article’s language used to clarify a measure or to correct misprints or errors. As of this week, there are six separate amendments to the marijuana proposal. 

But as seen in past Town Meetings, the greater the number of amendments attached to the articles, the more likely members will determine the original to be “unwinding” and “complicated,” as one member of Monday’s meeting said. 

Pot wasn’t the only subject discussed as residents raised questions on amendments regarding changing the number of Selectmen from three to five members and zoning issues related to the General Residence districts.

With Clock Running, Selectmen Calls A Public Meeting On Incinerator’s Future

Photo: The entrance to the former Belmont incinerator site.

Tick-tock, tick-tock.

With the clock now running on the future of the town’s former incinerator location near the Lexington/Belmont line, the Belmont Board of Selectmen will look to residents to supply some ideas on the site’s future.

“We will need to open it up to the public,” said Adam Dash, Selectmen’s chair. “All of them are clever and really good, but we can only do so much on that site.” Dash added he sees public meetings – much like those held last year on trash collection – sometime in June to gather resident input. The meeting will likely take place on June 9 at the Board’s first scheduled meeting at the conclusion of annual Town Meeting. 

When the town took ownership of the site from the state 11 months ago – the deed for the property was transferred from the state on May 17, 2017 – the state required the town to construct a mitigation plan to remediate the site of contaminated soil and groundwater by “capping” the land polluted by ash produced in the burning of garbage. That work will need to be completed in the next few years.

The 16-acre property is located on upper Concord Avenue and the Rock Meadow Conservation about 1,500 feet from the Lexington town line. Opened in 1959, the incinerator operated until 1975, then becoming the town’s transfer station for decades before the state took control of the land. The Belmont Department of Public Works currently utilizes the site for equipment storage, leaf composting and the placement of debris.

As of fiscal 2016, Belmont had $3.5 million in a reserve account to clean the property.

Suggestions for future use include a dog park, solar farm, bike and recreation path, an expanded DPW operation, and even a marijuana farm. One use discussed in the past few months has been a new town skating rink. 

At its last meeting, the selectmen and Town Administrator Patrice Garvin felt that before capping the site, a specific post-closure usage needs to be decided rather than moving immediately with full site remediation. What will be placed on the site will determine what type of cap is used; a passive recreational use will require a less intrusive barrier than one supporting a building.

“Because if you use all the money to cap it, you won’t have anything left if you want to do a recreational type of use,” said Garvin. 

In the past month, Selectman Mark Paolillo said he and Garvin had met with Belmont Youth Hockey Association which is lining up funding for a proposed facility on the Belmont High School site, to ask if the skating rink “could work” on upper Concord Avenue. 

“It does align with what we are doing at the High School site, so we have to start thinking about this sooner than later,” said Paolillo, who believes the rink could be located at the site, but legal matters remain on whether the facility would qualify as a municipal use which is allowed under the deed. 

‘Be Heard’: Update, Workshop On Design For New High School Thursday, April 26

Photo: Design update and workshop on the new Belmont High School.

The Belmont High School Building Committee wants residents to “Be Heard, Be Involved, Be Informed” as it holds a Design Update and Design Workshop concerning the proposed new Belmont High School this Thursday, April 26 at 7 p.m. at the Wellington Elementary School cafeteria, 121 Orchard St.

The night’s agenda will include:

  • Project Design Updates
  • Design Workshop – South Plaza
  • Questions and comments

Upcoming Community Meetings include:

  • Tuesday, May 8 at 7 p.m.: Design Update with Virtual Reality Presentation, a joint School Committee & High School Building Committee Meeting at the Chenery Middle School Community Room.
  • Wednesday, May 16 at 7 p.m. Traffic Solutions Discussion at the Wellington Elementary School cafeteria

To sign up for email updates and to learn more about the Belmont High School Building Project, including project timelines, videos, meeting schedules, presentations, and more, visit If you have them to

Belmont OKs First Housing Production Plan; Keys On Seniors, Young Families

Photo: The leaders of the effort to bring a Housing Production Plan to Belmont: (from left), Charles Clark, Judy Singler,  Judith Feins, Rachel Heller, Gloria Leipzig.

With the median sales price of single-family homes reaching seven figures and new residential construction being gobbled up for well over a million dollars, it wouldn’t appear the residents choosing to live in affluent “Town of Homes” would have a problem obtaining and keeping their homes 

In fact, one of four Belmont households is eligible for affordable housing.

According to the Belmont Housing Trust, more than one in four Belmont homeowners and nearly half of all renters are cost-burdened when it comes to paying for basic housing expenses, more than 30 percent of their income for the places they live.

While the demand is there, the supply of “affordable” units is wanting; only 6.7 percent of Belmont properties are deemed as affordable, according to data compiled by the Metro West Collaborative Developers.

“We were pretty surprised and you may be too to see how disproportion the need relative to the affordable house that we have,” said Judith Feins, chair of the Belmont Housing Trust, established nearly two decades ago to investigate ways of bringing people and affordable housing together.

Now, in a historic vote, the Board of Selectmen unanimously approved Belmont’s first Housing Production Plan directing the town to assist in the building and preservation of affordable units that will assist residents such as elderly households and young families which are disproportionately impacted by the current housing stock. 

“We can finally say Belmont is moving in the right direction increasing housing that’s desperately needed,” said Feins.

“These are all laudable goals and it leverages additional funding from the state. This is long overdue,” said Adam Dash, Selectmen chair. 

The town’s new housing blueprint has been a long-time coming as the Housing Trust first approached the town seven years ago to begin the process that most municipalities in eastern Massachusetts have approved. 

A major delay was due to the strung-out approval process for the Cushing Village (known today as The Bradford) project which acted like a black hole for all other board business and previous Planning Boards did not see the urgency to take up the proposal.

That changed with the appointment of Charles Clark as chair and with a majority of new members coming on the board last fall. A long-time supporter of the Trust’s goals, Clark said the plan was finally able to pass – on a unanimous vote – seeing the proposed plan was needed.

“You have to want it to happen and you have to think it’s important,” said Clark.

The plan is a proactive strategy for planning and developing housing “that can shape their future in developing community and affordable housing,” Feins told the selectmen. It also determines how the town reaches the target of 10 percent affordability housing stock set by the state in General Law Chapter 40B.

The plan’s goal is to increase affordable housing by 337 units to meet the state’s affordability standard with the spotlight on creating more housing for three specific groups:

  • senior households
  • young newly-formed families and
  • extremely and very low-income households

The Planning Board early this year suggested some clarity changes to the Trust’s original plan which the Trust came back after “rethinking” the plan with those “constructive ideas” incorporated into the revised plan, said the Trust’s Gloria Leipzig.

The Trust proposes to increase housing production via a number of “concrete strategies,” including:

  • Redevelop abandoned or underutilized parcels on South Pleasant Street, the McLean Senior Residence site, the Purecoat factory adjacent Belmont High School, the vacant gas station on Blanchard Road and property on church and other religious properties.
  • Maximize housing development at transportation hubs such as the Moraine Street and increase housing over shops and stores.
  • Invest in the revitalization and preservation of the town’s stock of community housing such as Sherman Gardens and Belmont Village.
  • Use Community Preservation Act funds on new programs such as spending annually 10 percent of the total CPA on housing, use the funds to leverage the purchase and development of community housing when land becomes available. 

The plan now heads for approval by the state’s Department of Housing and Community Development. If the OK comes quickly, the town will be able to become a state Housing Choice Community by its April 30 deadline for Belmont to be eligible for state funds. 

Leipzig said the Trust and the Planning Board and Selectmen will continue working on implementing the plan through town government action – such as seeking zoning changes to help facilitate the creation and preservation of housing – and acquiring state grants and loans.

Town Meeting Preview: Warrant Briefing Monday Night

Photo: Belmont Town Meeting in action.

The Belmont League of Women Voters and Warrant Committee is co-sponsoring the annual warrant briefing to acquaint Town Meeting members with the non-financial articles on the Town Meeting warrant.

The meeting will take place Monday evening, April 23 from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. in the Beech Street Center, 266 Beech St. This is an opportunity for Town Meeting members and the general public to ask questions of town officials and department heads concerning any of the warrant articles prior to the 2018 Town Meeting beginning in one week on Monday, April 30

Warrant Committee Chair Roy Epstein will preside.